For Sale: Harbor View, Needs Work

April 6, 2009 at 12:59 am Leave a comment

THE West Bank Lighthouse stands about three miles east of New Dorp Beach on Staten Island. From there, in the view to the north, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge seems delicately placed on the horizon.

A foghorn wails at passing ships, and two lights beam from the top of the 70-foot-high lighthouse, whose tower resembles nothing so much as a giant spark plug.

One of the lights lines up with the Staten Island Lighthouse and is intended to keep vessels in the Ambrose Channel, the main shipping channel in and out of the Port of New York and New Jersey. The other signals directions to approaching mariners. Both, despite significant changes in their mechanisms, have shined for more than a century.

The West Bank Lighthouse, however, has recently undergone a significant change. In May 2007, it was officially deemed excess by the United States Coast Guard. After no suitable nonprofit steward could be found, the lighthouse was auctioned by the federal General Services Administration for $245,000.

The Coast Guard will continue to operate and to maintain West Bank’s two lights, and the buyer, whom the G.S.A. declined to identify, will maintain the structure.

But in every other sense, and for the first time since the United States Lighthouse Service merged with the Coast Guard in 1939, the West Bank Lighthouse is under new ownership.

A similar fate has befallen three more of the area’s 10 active lighthouses. Old Orchard Shoal, which sits in Lower New York Bay, was sold over the summer, and the lighthouses at Execution Rocks and Stepping Stones in the Long Island Sound were deeded to a nonprofit group and a local town, respectively.

The Coast Guard has yet to deem as excess the lighthouses on Romer Shoal, in Lower New York Bay; Great Beds, off the southern tip of Staten Island; or the area’s most-often-sighted lighthouse, Robbins Reef.

But their time may soon come.

“We want to take care of these lighthouses,” said Petty Officer First Class Mike Johnson of the First United States Coast Guard Division. “But we don’t have the money for maintenance of the structures. That’s why we excess them to the G.S.A., and they offer them to nonprofits and then to the public at auction.”

“We still have access to the light,” Petty Officer Johnson said. “And they have a piece of history.”

New York Times


Entry filed under: Get Wet, Maritime. Tags: , , , , , , .

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